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Cases of blindness and visual impairment decline dramatically across India

The Times of India logo The Times of India 09-11-2022 Anuja Jaiswal
© Provided by The Times of India

NEW DELHI: There is some good news. Blindness and visual impairment (VI) in India reduced by 47.1% and 51.9%, respectively, in 2019, in overall population as compared to WHO’s figures of 2010.

However, India is yet to achieve WHO's goal of reducing blindness to 0.3% of the total population, as the present figures stand at 0.36%.


According to a recent study for estimating the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment in the Indian population, more than one fourth of people aged 50 years and above are visually impaired in India and the prevalence of blindness among them is 1.99%.

The study has been published in peer review scientific journal, PLOS (in ophthalmology). According to WHO, a person who is unable to count fingers from a distance of three metres would be considered “blind”.


The survey was conducted from 2015 to 2019 by Dr Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences of the AIIMS, in collaboration with the Union health ministry, using the Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) method.

It covered 93,018 people, aged 50 years, in 31 districts over 24 states and Union territories, with the assistance of National Programme for Control of Blindness & Visual Impairment (NPCB&VI).

Among the 31 surveyed districts, the highest prevalence was seen in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh (3.7%), whereas the lowest was in Thrissur, Kerala (1.1%).

Prevalence of blindness was higher among females than males in all districts except Khera (Gujarat), Birbhum (West Bengal), and Kadapa (Andhra Pradesh), where prevalence among males was higher. In Warangal (Telangana) there was equal prevalence among males and females.

Principal investigator of the survey and officer in charge of community ophthalmology of Dr RP Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, Dr Praveen Vashist, said untreated cataract continues to be the most common cause of blindness and visual impairment in adults aged 50 years or more despite nearly 65 lakh cataract surgeries conducted in India, with an average cataract surgical rate of nearly 5,000 per 10 lakh population per year.

“After such findings, it was suggested we conduct 2.7 crore surgeries in the next three years, under GOI initiative, to reduce the prevalence rate of blindness,” he added.

The survey protocol was approved by the Institute Ethics Committee, AIIMS, New Delhi, and funded by the government of India.

The major causes of blindness included cataract (66.2%), followed by corneal opacity (8.2%), cataract surgical complications (7.2%), posterior segment disorders (5.9%), and glaucoma (5.5%).

The proportion of blindness and visual impairment that is due to avoidable causes is 92.9% and 97.4%, respectively.

Dr Vashist said India has implemented a series of effective measures in its current National Programme for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment (NPCB&VI) to combat the situation, and it has resulted in a significant decline in prevalence of blindness over the past few decades.

In the population aged 50 years and above, the prevalence of blindness has declined from 5.3% in 2001 to 3.6% in 2007, and to 1.9% in the current survey.

The study revealed that a higher prevalence was noted in females than in males and participants residing in rural regions had higher prevalence of blindness than those living in urban regions.

Also, participants who are illiterate had nearly six times higher odds of being blind than those who are educated, the study stated.

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